Dendritic cells (DCs) are immunological sentinels of the organism acting as antigen-presenting cells (APC) and are critical for induction of innate and adaptive immunity. Traditionally they are divided in myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs) and plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), a rare population of circulating cells that selectively express Toll-like receptors (TLR) 7 and TLR9 and have the capacity to produce large amounts of type I interferons (IFNs) in response to pathogenic agents or danger signals. It has been demonstrated that pDCs can coordinate events during the course of viral infections, allergic and autoimmune diseases and cancer. Through the production of type I IFNs, pDCs initiate protective immunity by activating classical DCs, T cells, natural killer cells and B cells. Upon activation, pDCs also differentiate into mature DCs and may contribute to the contraction of T-cell response. Human pDCs preferentially express immunoglobulin-like transcript 7 (ILT7; LILRA4), which couples with a signaling adapter to activate a prominent immune-receptor tyrosine-based activation motif (ITAM)-mediated signaling pathway. The interaction between ILT7 and bone marrow stromal cell antigen 2 (BST2, CD317) assures an appropriate TLR response by pDCs during viral infections and likely participates in pDCs tumor crosstalk. Moreover these cells seem to play a crucial role in the initiation of the pathological process of autoimmune diseases such as lupus or psoriasis. Despite the fact that their function within a tumor context is still controversial they represent an attractive target for therapeutic manipulation of the immune system to elicit a powerful immune response against tumor antigens in combination with other therapies.
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